Friday, 21 January 2005

Alt-weeklies and leftism

Something I pondered yesterday as I ate dinner at Fazoli’s reading both of Jackson’s alt-weeklies: why are virtually all alt-weeklies mostly left-wing affairs? The advertisers, for the most part, don’t care about the politics—they just want 18-to-34-year-old eyeballs on their ads—and most young people don’t care about politics; even the ones who do aren’t particularly leftist in their outlook (rather, the distribution is fairly evenly bimodal, since people who care about politics tend to be of one wing or the other, but the median college kid isn’t that far to the left). So why are alt-weeklies full of articles crusading for “social justice” and whining about SUV owners and people who rent movies at Blockbuster?

I suppose there’s an economic argument that leftist writers are more willing to accept low-to-nonexistent pay to produce content for the alt-weeklies than right-wingers would, since the opportunity cost for the typical left-winger is lower—but this wouldn’t apply to the college kids (including some I teach) who write a good deal for these papers. There might also be some sort of network effect; the people who set up the alt-weeklies tend to be leftists, so they get other motley liberals and progressives to join them. But if there’s money to be made running an alt-weekly, surely people with right-wing politics would also have established alt-weeklies. It’s doubly-puzzling since most college alternative newspapers are generally right-wing affairs. Any better theories?